Rev. Gritters is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Byron Center, Michigan.
In the last article, I began to explain the Scriptural teaching of the battle of Armageddon, the last battle that will take place on this earth. We need to remember that this is different from the view of many, who teach that there are two great battles yet to come: the battle of Armageddon and the battle of Gog and Magog. Others believe that these battles are separated by a thousand years, the first taking place before Christ returns, the second after the thousand-year reign of Jesus on earth, ushering in eternity. On the basis of Scripture, we believe that these are the same battle, which is to come shortly, and which will end in the destruction of this earth by Jesus, and the coming of eternity.
This last battle, Armageddon, is a battle of the world against itself. First, the Antichristian kingdom will oppose and exterminate the church (see Revelation 13 and Daniel 7). For the church, this will be the great tribulation. Then, at the very end, the Antichristian kingdom breaks up into two opposing powers and fights against itself. The pagan nations (the “kings of the east” of Revelation 16, and “Gog and Magog” of Revelation 20) do battle against the nations that call themselves Christian, but are actually antichristian. This is the battle of Armageddon. We may also call it the battle of Gog and Magog. It is the last battle.
Why would the united world government and church break up into two parts and fight against itself? This is an important question that will help us to understand what is happening in the world today as well as what will take place at the very end.
First, we may learn from other wars the reasons for this one. As in other wars, all kinds of natural differences come out. In this war, at first, the nations of the world will pull together because of their common hatred for God and His Christ. The world has seen many strange “bedfellows” because of common hatred of a common foe. Think only of the “alliance” united against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein only months ago—so fragile an alliance that all were surprised that it stuck together (“thanks to Israel’s restraint”). That is the way it will go before the last battle: a common hatred of a common foe allies odd parties. But the common hatred for Christ and their common desire to rebuild Babel’s tower of humanism will soon peter out. Again, racial hatred will boil, and the hatred of God will show itself, as it always has, as hatred for each other.
Especially, though, religious differences will be outstanding. Gog and Magog are the pagan nations, idolatrous nations, non-Christian nations. But the nations of the west (the old Roman empire) are “Christian” nations. And no love is lost between them. Now the last jihad, the last “holy war,” will begin in all its fury. As always, the pagan nations will gag at the smell of Christianity.
If we dig deeper, we find other causes for this last battle. Revelation 16:13 tells us that the dragon (the devil) sends forth the evil spirits to gather all nations for the battle. This is not Satan’sintention, of course. The last battle will be the spoiling of his great masterpiece. But the war is his fault. This is why: Satan deceived the nations to join together with the Antichrist to form one world power. Satan made the beast attractive, inviting (compelling!) everyone to bow down to the beast’s image, pointing out its alluring power and riches. But the very act of the devil of waking up these nations brings about the last battle. For “a little while” he is successful. In the end, his house crashes down on his own head, by his own work. The pagan nations open their eyes and see the loathsome character of Antichrist.
We may be thankful when we see how this all works out.
Especially we may be thankful when we see that God sovereignly controls all these things. God, finally, and not Satan, brings about the battle of Armageddon.
When you read Ezekiel 38, the first passage to explain Gog and Magog, it is plain that Jehovah God sends them to destroy wicked Israel. Revelation 16 says that God gathers the nations to battle at Armageddon. Even though the earlier verses say that Satan and his false prophet work this work, God stands behind it all. Using them as tools in His hand, God brings about a beginning of His judgment on those that oppose Him and hate His Son.
Do not forget, this war, as all war, is God’s judgment on mankind.
What is the running of the red horse in Revelation 6 if it is not the sending of war into the world by God? God brings about, ultimately, all the battles of mankind. Yes, the wars are the fault of sinful men, a result of their greed, their selfishness,their destructive hatred, their megalomania. But wars are God’s judgment on mankind for hating Him. The last war will be the beginning of Gods final judgment on sinful mankind.
Oh, the horror of war! But, oh, the awful horror of the last war will surpass the horror of all the others. I have heard soldiers on the news say that the battleground was hell, that the agonies were hellish. They are wrong! That is not hell! But these judgments in war certainly are a preview of the judgments in eternity. They are Gods judgments.
Read through Revelation 15 and Revelation 16 and no doubt will remain that war, and this last one in particular, comes as God’s judgment. Seven angels have the seven last plagues and seven vials filled with the wrath of God, ready to be poured out on the earth. The first vial is a grievous sore on those who received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The second and third turn the waters into blood. By the fourth the sun scorches men. The fifth darkens the kingdom, weakening the beast. The sixth dries up the Euphrates, giving the kings of the east the ability to come against the camp of the saints in Jerusalem. (Not to be taken literally, this simply means that some obstacle is removed that kept the pagan nations from attacking the Christian nations. God now removes this obstacle by pouring out His vial.) God brings about this last battle!
God’s judgment comes on the antichristian nations, on the beast and his prophet, on all those who blubbered praise to the beast and took his mark. God’s judgment comes on all those who perpetrated the terrible crimes against God’s “seven thousand” elect during the rule of the beast.
But this will also be God’s judgment on the heathen Gog and Magog. In the Old Testament, because the pagan nations came up against the city of God, God judged them for their wicked intent. So now, even though the pagan nations are attacking the antichristian nations, their motive is hatred for Jehovah and Christ His Son. God judges them for this in the last battle.
Terrifying? If you said that this does not bring fear to your heart, you would be no different from Lloyd Alexander’s lovable (but dishonest) Fleudder Flam, Taran’s yellow-haired friend whose little harp would break a string every time he “stretched the facts.” When exposed in his lying boast that he was fearless in his battle with the Horned King, he finally admitted, “Green, absolutely green! Never so scared in my life!” Well, Gods people naturally fear the last battle.
But God gives us reason to have hope, to be encouraged. He does that by the very name of the battle. Armageddon means “the hill of Megiddo.” In the Old Testament, this was a hill where many battles were fought, where Deborah and Barak fought and defeated the Canaanites, led by Jabin and Sisera. The meaning of this is not that there will be another battle over there on the hill in the countryside of Israel, but that God again will arise to fight for His people and destroy His enemies, just as He did time and again for Old Testament Israel.
In the middle of the last battle, when the wicked are destroying themselves, and the few remaining saints of God are hiding in fear, the Lord will descend with a shout, destroy the wicked, and save His church.
Young people, members of the church in the world, doesn’t this show us our calling? Do not join with the world. Its power and work are deceitful and temporary. The world is not able to bring about the peace and prosperity that it promises. The “new world order” will be man’s work and man’s accomplishment. Based on man’s wisdom, it will crumble.
Young people, be not part of the false church, or of any church that shows itself to be worldly in its life and worldly in its goals. This institution, too, will perish, destroyed by the judgment of God.
Be not deceived by the allure of the power and wisdom and greatness of the world and false church. The world calls out with its siren song, “Join with us where there is power! It is foolish to join yourself with the weak, insignificant church. There is no future for it, no hope in it. There is hope for you in the world.”
In the end, all of us will see where there is hope, where there is power, what lasts.
In the kingdom of God, built on the foundation of the blood of Jesus, established in the righteousness of God—there is hope; there is power; that lasts!
1.How can we identify the false church so as to keep ourselves from it?
2.What does President Bush mean when he speaks so often, lately, of the “new world order” that he envisions?
3.What must take place before this last battle can take place? Does this mean that we have reason to be lazy in our waiting for Jesus?